5 of my favourite French restaurants in London
For the past few years French food has been eclipsed by more fashionable Italian and Asian but there are still some great places to go if you want a taste of Paris without having to cross the Channel.
In no particular order:
Casse-croute - Bermondsey
I struggled to get into this tiny bistro when it first opened and even recently only managed to score a 6.30 reservation but if you’re a Francophile you’ll absolutely love this kitsch little dining room. Given the size of the operation the menu is sensibly short - 3 choices for each course - but you can also dip into the bar menu. Mains such as (a very good) bavette gratin sauce dauphinoise and pig’s cheek with sauce moutarde mash are also well priced at £14-£14.50: desserts like tarte tatin are just £4.50. A short list of simple French wines from small producers, available both by the glass and carafe completes the picture. (The menu changes every day - check the restaurant's Twitterstream @Cassecroute109 for updates.)
Brasserie Zédel - Piccadilly
A brilliant reincarnation of the classic Parisian brasserie by those ace restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King of The Wolseley fame. The food isn't totally consistent (though that's also true of Paris) but the prices are ridiculously good and the room is just dazzling. Amazingly given its central location (just off Piccadilly Circus) there’s an £8.95 prix fixe menu though I’d pick your own entrées myself. Carottes rapées (£2.95), Céleri Rémoulade (£3.25), Tarte aux Poireaux et Gruyère (£3.25), Oeufs durs mayonnaise (£3.75) - you wouldn’t do better on the Left Bank. There’s also a plat du jour for £12.95 and three different types of choucroute, the house speciality.
Racine - Knightsbridge
A great tribute to bourgeois French cooking by Francophile Henry Harris, this smart little Knightsbridge bistro is a long-term favourite. You’ll probably go for the well-priced prix-fixe lunch (£17.75 for two courses, £19.50 for three including, currently, Middle White pork rillettes, grilled Iberico pork with Morteau sausage and white beans and Poire Belle Hélène) but end up being tempted to stray onto the à la carte (grilled rabbit with mustard sauce and smoked bacon (£17.75), tête de veau, sauce ravigote (£17.75), braised lamb ‘à sept heures’ (£19.50) or, for a real splash-out, the Côte de boeuf (£78.50 for two), the ideal way to enjoy one of the best bottles on Harris’s excellent wine-list.
Le Gavroche - Mayfair
For classic old-style French dining and service to match there’s nowhere to beat Michel Roux’s family-run Le Gavroche. Prices are now so steep they don’t even put them on the website so stick to the three course ‘business lunch’ at £54.60 which sounds a lot but includes a half bottle of very decent wine (French, obviously). The menu changes regularly but the website currently shows dishes such as calamars sautés en persillade et risotto a l’encre de seiche, la piece de boeuf, grillée echalote et sauce au vin rouge and soufflé glacé aux noisettes. If you do stray onto the à la carte (don’t say I didn’t warn you) don’t miss the soufflé suissesse - a featherlight cheese soufflé with double cream.
Green Man, French Horn - St Martin’s Lane (Trafalgar Square)
One of a number of French-inspired restaurants and wine bars run in partnership with natural wine importeres Les Caves de Pyrène (others are Terroirs just round the corner, Brawn in Hackney and Soif in Battersea). GMFH theoretically serves food from the Loire region though many of the dishes, like andouillette, can be found elsewhere in France - if you're lucky, these days. The French influence is not slavish - many dishes like leek, crab, egg and horseradish (£9.75) and gurnard, monk’s beard and shellfish vinaigrette (£19) are given a modern twist. There’s a cheaper lunch and pre-theatre menu for £14.50 for 2 courses. Wine from £4 a glass though spend more and you’ll be rewarded.
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